Beacon Builders

Alex Winnett, Team Leader

Alex wakes up to the sounds of a choclo field being harvested before jumping through the dusty open puerta of a moving ‘Rapidoso’ bus. Before his current position at Socios En Salud’s Clinical Tuberculosis Laboratory in Carabayllo, Perú, Alex studied biochemistry and mathematics at UMass Boston. Concurrently he worked overnights on hospital inpatient units and in laboratories developing drug delivering nanoparticles, a MRSA treatment, an antibody to neutralize Dengue Virus, and a computational pipeline to annotate genomes. Alex has a passion for healthcare on the microscopic level through research, the human level through direct patient care, and the macroscopic level in public health policy/programming; all of which he’ll foster through an MD/PhD program starting this July.

Christine Lattouf, Team Member

Utilizing her gifted voice to heal hearts and souls, Christine is completely dedicated to both music and medicine. Trained as a lead soloist and wedding singer, she also aspires to pursue an MD/MPH. Following her two-week medical rotation in the infectious disease department at the American University of Beirut, Christine is currently interning in the refugee clinic at Cambridge Hospital while completing her last semester studying biology at UMass Boston. Her interests include working in community health centers, assisting the refugee population, understanding drug addiction, shaping healthcare policy through reform, and creating awareness about preventative medicine through health education.

Ghita Jaouhari, Team Member

When she was 8 years old, Ghita moved to the United States from Casablanca, Morocco.. and still hasn’t adjusted to the New England winters. She is currently a Biology and Psychology student at UMass Boston, and also nocturnal (while working overnights as an Unit Coordinator at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital). She is a member of the Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity, which has mentored her understanding of public health and medical ethics and helped tailor her career goals. Ghita is always ready to go where she can be of service and envisions a future career fighting cancer, as well as disparities in the treatment of cancers within the US and abroad.

Colton Smith, Team Member

Colton spends quite a bit of his time on the road – whether that is an hour and a half commute to study biochemistry at UMass Boston, or in an ambulance working as an Emergency Medical Technician. As he travels physically, his mind does as well; he passes areas with highly variable access to healthcare and spends traffic time thinking about how healthcare is dealt in the context of patients he’s encountered. He imagines how these disparities look on the global scale which he’s yet to observe, but through a career as a physician, seeks to both serve and advocate for health equity along roads he knows well and those he’s yet to travel.

Team Essay

The Architecture of Cultural Bridges

In 1918, the Spanish Flu spread worldwide, with nearly 1 billion individuals affected as the pathogen crossed borders without a visa or passport. Just as diseases do not discriminate between their victims, the practice of medicine must be prepared to cross boundaries – geographic, cultural, socioeconomic, racial and beyond. Any differences that could exist between a patient and his or her provider must not impede treatment, because rarely do they impede illness progression. To overcome any barriers that might exist, it is important that physicians are trained in using cultural humility to build bridges such that the patient-physician relationship flourishes.

‘Cultural competency’, as a principle, suggests that there exists a subjective landmark of cultural understanding. Though this is helpful for informing treatment – or knowing what parts are needed to bridge gaps – it lacks the practicality of being able to construct a unique, optimal treatment for each patient with the materials available. For this reason, cultural humility, which teaches the latter, gives clinicians the tools to continuously and respectfully learn about each patient’s cultural identity and deliver individualized care within diverse communities.

A global health experience would inform and enrich our understanding of how providers care for patients in different, often resource-limited, settings. Undoubtedly, this experience will allow us to practice cultural humility and further enhance our abilities to effectively relate to and communicate with patients whose life experiences are very different from our own. We hope to see the tremendous implications of establishing trust within the patient-provider relationship, and witness how culturally-humble care enriches our understanding of and appreciation for our shared humanity.

The experience this Challenge would provide and our reflection, contextualization and assembly of it will shape our actions as students, healthcare providers, and advocates for global health equity. Through our medical fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, we plan to host information sessions on healthcare disparities, advocacy events to support health as a basic human right, and workshops practicing cultural humility. Drawing from the flurry of excitement stemming from the development of a new Public Health minor on the UMass Boston campus, we plan to start a chapter of Timmy Global Health on our campus to encourage other students to join us in sustainably addressing some of the most pressing global health challenges of today.

If selected for the Global Health Challenge, we will develop skills within a toolkit of cultural humility that will inform our practice as future physicians as well as our everyday actions as global citizens. As causative agents of change, we will learn to build bridges over walls, canyons, and borders and we plan to cross borders both physically and in an intangible sense to provide the highest level of patient care.